Not So Simple Starts

Not So Simple Starts

C’mere a minute. Lemme be honest for a minute (shocking, I never do that) I love comic books. I do, always have, always will. Have you ever read a book and wished you could follow the characters further? Richard Rahl, Rand Al’Thor, James Bond, Dirk Pitt, Samwise Gamgee, that nerdy British kid with the goofy glasses and magic stick, all ended and left fans with a sense of a friend leaving to live a life we aren’t part of.  In comic books they keep on living (too much in some cases but I’ll save that for later) and we have an almost unlimited supply of adventures. The trade off is that not every story is as good as the last. Creative teams shift and move on to other things  and some are tough acts to follow. The creative team of the comic book  really needs to be a team, each has a role and if done correctly they create true art in story telling.

For those that aren’t familiar with the concept let me break it down in basic terms. First off is the writing, it IS a story after all, even in the extremely rare silent issue there has to be a story. The writer has to tell us a compelling tale, sometimes for years. The added pressure these days is that the film and TV expansion of comics has added an extra layer of pressure. Names like Neil Gaiman and Frank Miller have contributed to major character mythos in comics and then moved on to books, films and TV. Gaiman recently saw his American Gods novel make it’s TV debut his work on The Sandman for DC’s Vertigo imprint is considered in the upper echelon of the genre to this day, the constant rumour that The Sandman will make a screen appearance has been a constant story in the preproduction “news”.  Frank Miller, my favorite writer in the genre, his comics Sin City and 300 have made it to the big screen and each had sequels made, Sin City in particular was mind blowingly true to the source material, but wait there’s more. Miller retconned Marvel stalwart Daredevil and his material is largely responsible for both seasons of DD on Netflix, his Wolverine work fleshed out the character we see in everything, not to be out done his work on Batman for DC is spread across not only the current DC film franchises but Batman Begins as well. That isn’t to say there are only a few worth while writers, Chris Claremont defined the X-Men and much of their convoluted film story is pieced together from his efforts. Brian Michael Bendis provided Marvel with it’s major company shaking events in the last 10 years including Secret Invasion, Civil War, Seige, Age of Ultron and Old Man Logan (the inspiration for the film Logan). Good writing can make a book, bad writing can kill a character, but writing can only go so far the second major component must blend well.

Art, here is a tremendous team effort, it starts with the penciler. This is the set of hands that lays out the pictures, man or woman these people pick up a pencil and create what we see. They draw the book, in pencil (I know what you’re thinking just wait) and get a lot of the credit for the art as a whole but they aren’t the whole team. Each artist brings their own style, some are cartoonish (Todd McFarlane), some are all about 0% body fat (Jim Lee),  some do more grounded realistic (Greg Smallwood), others may be more gritty (Mark Texiera), each artist brings a specific style to the book which must be compatible with the writers story and the character. The penciler is the superstar of the industry because they set the visual style for each book and get instant credit where the writer needs to produce a complete and compelling story. In the early 1990’s seven of these artists left Marvel and formed Image Comics, all artists and many wrote their own stories, some went better than others and the Image of today is not the same Image that gave us Spawn and…well I doubt anyone would know another title from then but these days a little book called The Walking Dead (Yes, THAT one) lives under that logo. So if the superstar is the artist why doesn’t every book look like a “How to Draw…” book?

Let’s look at the second stage of the art, the inks. The Inker’s job is to go over the pencils and define the true lines of the panel then add shading and depth to accentuate the image. If you would like a better explanation I direct you to Kevin Smith’s finest film Chasing Amy which involves several comic creator characters. The penciler/inker team really makes the art pop. When a pair is in sync they make magic, not to say it is always a pair, with enough time one person can do both jobs, but publishing deadlines are strict in the big leagues so often we see at least two people in these roles. The best teams seem to travel together and for good reason. I know what this sounds like but I assure you an Inker is NOT a tracer.

Next on our art team tour de force is the third stage personel, these days it can be a studio handling things or the traditional single soul, the Colourist. Yes balck and white comics have a place and are great in many cases (Sin City, Walking Dead) but we need colour and in the last few years the colourists have become a much larger force in the art. Current books like Daredevil and Moon Knight have highlighted the colourist and really made their contribution a character in the book, essential for the feel and character of the entire piece, by far this is my most compelling portion of the art. While the detail of colouring some artists work is crucial if the colour can stand on its own and enhance any artists work the book will always maintain a certain tone which will stay consistent no matter the writers direction or artists style.

Finally we get to the keyboard player of our band. The over looked and under appreciated soul that completes the whole ensemble despite the tiny genitals. I kid, I have heard that Letterers are super well hung. You simply can not read a comic book without a letterer, there would be no words, literally no words. Much like colourists the letterer is an after thought of the creative team unless they go above and beyond to give a style to the words. Language is a tricky thing to impart, tone is hard to convey in letters (how many texts have you had back fire?)  You can see below that the letters are in a different font for Loki than for Norman Osbourne, in this case indicating Loki’s Asgardian heritage.  Takee note of the Y, A, E, H. S and T in each bubble. I left it huge on purpose, this is a shot of a few panels in Marvel’s Seige #1.
While this is a common divergence the various speech styles, including untranslated alien languages, fall to this set of hands. Clearly the least recognized yet most crucial portion, if we cant read the story does it exist?

There you go folks, a brief over view of the creative collaboration involved in a comic book, which has become the starting point for billions of dollars of much loved entertainment. Don’t mistake me that is just the small crew that does the grunt work, editors, researchers, proof readers and an army of others to get books out each month. That’s just the big few, there are others out there on the independent or DYI circuit doing multiple roles just trying to get the art out. These stories ARE art, these characters still resonate with us and have life beyond the page and single author. They live. Stories today are getting better and the art is too, your next favorite movie is on a word program and easel right now. The next big TV/NetFlix sensation is being coloured and lettered by people that will never sign an autograph. Frankly I have read many of the books that we are all watching and with out exception the books are better, look in to it or maybe hand one to the kid in your life, start a friendship that will last decades.

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Grind or Cave?

“Can’t you see, I’m easily bothered by persistence? One step from lashing out at you.”  In that simple set of lyrics lies the horror of everyone who aspires to produce anything. The fear that in repeated attempts to get the project to fruition will result in ill will from anyone that is approached, especially if it is more than once. It is a common creative pitfall in entertainment but to limit it to one segment of society would be narrow minded at best.  Succeeding first try at anything is rare, if not practically impossible so persistence is a must, right? Easier said than done though, if one cannot role with the punches and shake off disappointment perseverance is just another word in the dictionary.

In this day and age blogs are a dime a dozen and bloggers range in skill as much as they do in topic and frequency. Starting a blog is very easy, see even I can do it, keeping to it is not as simple as it sounds. Creative juices don’t flow easy all the time, life gets in the way, technical issues arise, discipline wains and the tough start up time and small readership grinds on the ego. Staying consistent is a battle unto itself let alone being persistent enough to keep at it. I don’t think bloggers are given enough credit for battling past the pitfalls and continuing to produce, that’s not me tooting my horn that’s me giving respect to friends and followers that are still banging away at the keyboards no matter what they have going on. It takes a while to gain any notoriety, periods where analytics plateau, the novelty of it wears off, some get discouraged and quit, some just lose interest or inspiration and stop, a few just persevere and work past it all. I have considered just stopping, I doubt many would notice to be honest, sometimes I struggle to find a topic or convince myself it’s a good one. I’ve seen spikes, lulls and flat lines in my analytics and answered “You STILL doing that thing?” When it all comes down to it I do this for me, to get better and producing written words and keep disciplined at it, I cannot speak for anyone else. I persevere for me, for my own goals at getting better at writing and for the 19 year old me that sat in a mall cafe 3-5 times a week for an hour before work, writing a book pen to paper than burned it a few years later when poor self image said “Give up, you suck.”

This is starting to sound like a personal temper tantrum, I digress, that up there did hit a nerve and I chose to not delete it because my own active perseverance has resulted in the very words you are reading now. Let me restate that ACTIVE PERSEVERANCE. Recently I had to make a few decisions in my life and part of that was that a few things I was unwilling to give up on were simply not viable anymore. I passively persevered on them, I held to the notion that I would 1) rekindle the initial passion and drive I had for them 2) was just ‘on a break’ until I sorted other life essentials out. Bullshit, deep down I knew I was checked out, I knew I lost the spark for the things I had valued, no shame in that, it happens. Upside of it all be damned, the fire was out. Sooner or later EACH AND EVERYONE OF US (Yeah, you just got CAPS, bold and italics which is the literary equivalent of being middle named by mom) ask ourselves; ‘Persevering or clinging to something no longer viable?’ The answer is in the value to you and no one else. If there is still value to you then keep working for it not waiting for divine intervention to boost you.

No matter what it is there seems to be a point where the bubble breaks and the spoils of persevering through any adversity appear. Some call it being ‘3 feet from gold’, meaning that you never know how close you are to success if you give up.  No matter what you are doing out there keep on grinding, get better at it, revamp, re-imagine, improve, hone but keep grinding. You are reading my attempt at it, a few may have been reading for over a year now. I am not extremely proud of everyone of these but I am proud that I did not pack it in at the first sign of a bruised ego or low self esteem. Full disclosure; I started this with the intention of venting on how it seems that blog authors are so common place these days that we get no respect and are scoffed at, I bit on an idea based on one of those negative voices in my own head and instead I caught myself and used this to a more positive end. I hope that is what you take from this, a positive spin, because would rather see my persistence as me growing into something and not just whining. Until next time keep stay persistent my friends and RE…SPECT…WALK!

 

The Dress Rehearsal: A CSB Story

The Dress Rehearsal: A CSB Story

Above: The main event Intercontinental Title match Dean Ambrose(C) vs AJ Styles vs The Miz w/Maryse 

Monday night I attended a dress rehearsal all in all I thought it went very well. It was not the best night to be out on the town of course, the snow was coming down heavy when we left and the traffic was light until a few blocks from the venue where is was damn near gridlocked. I was not the only one to attend this rehearsal you see, I figure about 4000 others showed up. Sorry, I may have neglected to specify, the dress rehearsal was for Tuesday night’s Smackdown in Seattle. Before any of you dislocate your eyes rolling them allow me to explain.

WWE does not often hit our area and it has been well over a decade since they brought their TV cameras, we get what used to be called ‘house shows’ meaning they were only for those ‘in the house’, I have stopped calling them that, I refer to them as ‘rehearsal shows’. It used to be that TV was the promotional tool to sell tickets to the house shows. Interviews were based on “We’re coming to your town and I’m going to win the match!” template. TV expanded and ways to make more money using televised content out did the gates at live events that were not televised. Had to happen right? Naturally. I used to LOVE house shows, not just because it was a chance to see the big names in action against each other rather than the weekly squash match compilation the Saturday TV programs produced they seemed to flow better and the few interviews done came across as looser and less scrutinized. If I were to sum up the difference quickly I would say that for a stretch of years the atmosphere was more playful at a show with no broadcast. The talent seemed to get away with pushing the boundaries a bit and enjoy their work a bit more. Oh and the top names showed up but I digress.

In 2004, almost 12 years to the day really, I was at a show and saw Brock Lesnar vs Eddie Guerrero, in a few days Eddie would win the WWE title from Brock on Pay Per View. The catch was the matches had a lot of the same sequences, not in the same order because Eddie was an artist and could make a new and enthralling match every night. It wasn’t new to see the same sequences repeated but in many cases over the following years it became more than a trademark sequence or spot. I got a text Tuesday night from the friend I went with “Smackdown is a glorified show from last night.” It didn’t surprise me, in fact I told him and his girlfriend that it would basically be a dress rehearsal for the live feed the next night, that disappointed me in a way. That was the first WWE show they had attended and to me it was like watching your team scrimmage, to them it may have stole a bit of the magic.

The bottom line here is that to me it does not matter because a live match is a wonderful treat for me, you never really know what you are going to see and for myself I have been watching so long there are very few talents I have not seen perform live at this point, every show I get to see a few more, Bray Wyatt, Carmella, Alexa Bliss, Mojo Rawley, Baron Corbin, Apollo Cruz, Dolph Ziggler and most special to me American Alpha (my current favourite tag team) were new to my live experience list this time. I was amazed at how smooth AJ Styles was in the ring, how quick Dolph Ziggler was, the way The Miz riled up the crowd and the entrancement of the masses as Bray Wyatt strolled to the ring.  There are no real tricks when you are sitting in the building just reaction to music and performance. Sure it is a bit of a drag to see the same match verbatim but that is a danger with wrestling period.

While I would like to see a return to a more loose structure the reality is two fold 1) camera phones have made it impossible to really have a non-broadcast event. Footage of house shows constantly ends up on line and in some cases goes viral with potent mixed results. Which means the risk of being subject to discipline are just as great as getting credit for boosting interest 2) there is really nothing wrong with seeing a dress rehearsal in this case because it gives fans a chance to see something live they may not be able to when the world watches and the performers a chance to really work out the kinks before a big match. I have seen matches live that were better than their broadcast, if you attended you saw two better than anything televised thus far, Dolph Ziggler vs Apollo Cruz and Baron Corbin vs Kalisto. There is your magic in rehearsal and better yet it was magic we all made it there in that snow.

Below: Me making sure we did not make The List of Jericho

The Dress Rehearsal: A CSB Story

The Dress Rehearsal: A CSB Story

Above: The main event Intercontinental Title match Dean Ambrose(C) vs AJ Styles vs The Miz w/Maryse 

Monday night I attended a dress rehearsal all in all I thought it went very well. It was not the best night to be out on the town of course, the snow was coming down heavy when we left and the traffic was light until a few blocks from the venue where is was damn near gridlocked. I was not the only one to attend this rehearsal you see, I figure about 4000 others showed up. Sorry, I may have neglected to specify, the dress rehearsal was for Tuesday night’s Smackdown in Seattle. Before any of you dislocate your eyes rolling them allow me to explain.

WWE does not often hit our area and it has been well over a decade since they brought their TV cameras, we get what used to be called ‘house shows’ meaning they were only for those ‘in the house’, I have stopped calling them that, I refer to them as ‘rehearsal shows’. It used to be that TV was the promotional tool to sell tickets to the house shows. Interviews were based on “We’re coming to your town and I’m going to win the match!” template. TV expanded and ways to make more money using televised content out did the gates at live events that were not televised. Had to happen right? Naturally. I used to LOVE house shows, not just because it was a chance to see the big names in action against each other rather than the weekly squash match compilation the Saturday TV programs produced they seemed to flow better and the few interviews done came across as looser and less scrutinized. If I were to sum up the difference quickly I would say that for a stretch of years the atmosphere was more playful at a show with no broadcast. The talent seemed to get away with pushing the boundaries a bit and enjoy their work a bit more. Oh and the top names showed up but I digress.

In 2004, almost 12 years to the day really, I was at a show and saw Brock Lesnar vs Eddie Guerrero, in a few days Eddie would win the WWE title from Brock on Pay Per View. The catch was the matches had a lot of the same sequences, not in the same order because Eddie was an artist and could make a new and enthralling match every night. It wasn’t new to see the same sequences repeated but in many cases over the following years it became more than a trademark sequence or spot. I got a text Tuesday night from the friend I went with “Smackdown is a glorified show from last night.” It didn’t surprise me, in fact I told him and his girlfriend that it would basically be a dress rehearsal for the live feed the next night, that disappointed me in a way. That was the first WWE show they had attended and to me it was like watching your team scrimmage, to them it may have stole a bit of the magic.

The bottom line here is that to me it does not matter because a live match is a wonderful treat for me, you never really know what you are going to see and for myself I have been watching so long there are very few talents I have not seen perform live at this point, every show I get to see a few more, Bray Wyatt, Carmella, Alexa Bliss, Mojo Rawley, Baron Corbin, Apollo Cruz, Dolph Ziggler and most special to me American Alpha (my current favourite tag team) were new to my live experience list this time. I was amazed at how smooth AJ Styles was in the ring, how quick Dolph Ziggler was, the way The Miz riled up the crowd and the entrancement of the masses as Bray Wyatt strolled to the ring.  There are no real tricks when you are sitting in the building just reaction to music and performance. Sure it is a bit of a drag to see the same match verbatim but that is a danger with wrestling period.

While I would like to see a return to a more loose structure the reality is two fold 1) camera phones have made it impossible to really have a non-broadcast event. Footage of house shows constantly ends up on line and in some cases goes viral with potent mixed results. Which means the risk of being subject to discipline are just as great as getting credit for boosting interest 2) there is really nothing wrong with seeing a dress rehearsal in this case because it gives fans a chance to see something live they may not be able to when the world watches and the performers a chance to really work out the kinks before a big match. I have seen matches live that were better than their broadcast, if you attended you saw two better than anything televised thus far, Dolph Ziggler vs Apollo Cruz and Baron Corbin vs Kalisto. There is your magic in rehearsal and better yet it was magic we all made it there in that snow.

Below: Me making sure we did not make The List of Jericho

CSB: My Rushmore


Writing is not easy. Until you far more athletic and dynamic have tried to write something to be published or posted you may not understand that. Stories and articles may take an unexpected turn and find itself a completely different or at least unintended creature. It has happened here a few times and the last few I have really put time into reworking things and taking more time with the subject. Well here we go again, so in lieu of my intended thought train here is a far less complex to piece together. Now then…

Every week I listen to podcasts and a common question in The Ross Report (and a few others at random) is “Who is on your Mount Rushmore of professional wrestling?” Doesn’t sound too hard to answer does it? For year I have debated my own as a 33 year fan. I have seen a lot of performers come and go, debuts to retirement and Hall of Fame Inductions in some cases. Regardless of how much you enjoy professional wrestling there is still a level of achievement involved as with any career, someone IS the best and there is an argument for each spot.

Andre The Giant, The first real mainstream cross over in professional wrestling. Andre drew fans every where he went, he was kept special by not staying too long in one area where the danger of losing the novelty of his size was real. In his early career Andre was far more athletic and dynamic than fans that discovered him when the WWF went nation wide with Hulkamania at the fore front. Andre was most know as a spectacle performer, his matches were more about the imposing Giant and his stature than the bell to bell performance, which were text book big man wrestling. In March 1987 Andre headlined Wrestlemania 3 with Hulk Hogan, Andre was the most hated man in the building yet in September he was one of the most beloved characters in cinema when The Princess Bride hit theatres. Andre was the ultimate larger than live performer in the wrestling world.

The Rock, No one and I mean NO ONE has come through the professional wrestling world and hit mainstream success like The Rock. A relatively short full time career that spans roughly six years The Rock slowly transitioned to Hollywood amid skepticism that he could survive on screen. Hulk Hogan, Jesse Ventura and Roddy Piper did OK, Andre The Giant died before he could transition further but the mainstream had never seen a wrestler make a lasting impact on the top tier of Hollywood. Wow were fans and critics blind sided. Dwayne Johnson showed his adaptability moving from football to professional wrestling in the mid nineties, then he adapted to the crowd and went from maligned hero to despised villain back to ultimate fan favourite, repeatedly. He left WWE for a few years entirely and came back to main event big shows and star in massive films even getting his own HBO series Ballers (I highly recommend it). The Rock  was a hybrid of in ring prowess and entertaining spectacle and took the spectacle to the top of the screen box office.

Triple H, The goal of any wrestler is to rise to the top of the business and no one did it like Triple H. His strait laced life style and desire to get better lead him to an elitist gimmick in WCW and a slightly different incarnation in WWF. For a while he seemed like a one trick pony. Behind the scenes he was befriended by some of the top stars in the company which put him in position to show his intelligence for the business. A few small pushes and a big punishment later Triple H hit 1997 with a vengeance and never looked back. From sidekick to leader then main event player and ultimately a performer at the top echelon of the business. an 8 month lay off due to injury saw him shift from the most reviled man on the show to the most anticipated return in years as a top hero character. He would go on to mentor many other stars including other top tier talents and his intelligence behind the scenes gained the respect of the show makers, which lead to a work place romance with his future wife and daughter of the company owner/chairman. Since stepping back from the active roster Triple H has nurtured the concept of NXT and the WWE performance center where the next generation of talent is cultivated and new hires learn to adapt to the WWE machine. All said and done Triple H as a well rounded in ring performer became a well rsavy and highly influential business mogul. Say what you want about his marriage but Triple H produced top quality work in every aspect and has been a driving force on both sides of the camera for years.

The Undertaker, 26 years and 2 months ago (ish) Survivor Series 1990 introduced us to The Undertaker. There is no argument The Undertaker is the greatest WWE talent to ever exist. He never left for another company, even when there were millions of dollars to be had for less work. The outlasted the careers of almost every one of his peers, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Kevin Nash, Steve Austin, Edge, Kurt Angle no one had the longevity of Undertaker. He rarely had a truly bad match, sure there were a few below par but in his late career he made the Pro-Wrestling Illustrated Match of the Year three times for his Wrestlemania matches in 2009, 2010 and 2012. Undertaker lives his role, all the pomp and circumstance that goes into his entrances and mystique  are backed up by his commitment to the character and work in all aspects. Rarely interviewed, no social media, low public profile is very much unheard of in this day and age in the wrestling world, he may as well really be dead and resurrected for his few appearances per year. As far as his few appearances go he is at the level where just the hint of his presence sends the crowd into a frenzy unsurpassed by anyone else.  Sure there is the argument that a few others sold more merchandise and products but every one of them had a far shorter run and Undertaker was never so far behind in that category that he hasn’t made up for it in career totals.

There you have it, my picks for the Mount Rushmore of Professional Wrestling. Sure names like Bruno Sammartino, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage can be argued and they all have their valid points too. For now I stand by these and tomorrow I will once again attack a topic that got the better of me. Hopefully by next week I’ve made it tap out.